Healthy Minds for All

Stories of a Generation: The Best LGBTQ+ Books and Short Stories


With another Pride month here, we love to celebrate what it means to live with pride and go out with our friends and allies. But sometimes in the swirl of dance parties and pool soirées, we lose track of an essential part of our being: Our mental health. That's why we've got a host of LGBTQ+ books and short stories to recommend, for you to connect with the stories that define us and nourish your mind with the simple act of reading. Pro tip: Grab a copy of one of these classics, read it in between Pride events, then check out the film adaptation to see how your favorite movie stars light up the screen with their portrayals.


Based on a true story from author Patricia Highsmith's own experiences, "The Price of Salt" centers on Therese Belivet, a lonely young woman trapped in a department store job in 1950s New York. Her life is turned upside down when an alluring suburban housewife, Carol Aird, equally trapped in a stultifying marriage, shows up at her checkout counter. The brief encounter grows into a forbidden romance, sending the two women on a cross-country road trip to protect the love they've only ever imagined. First published in 1952, the book sent shock waves through society for its depiction of lesbian intimacy, but "the novel of a love that society forbids" has emerged as a cult classic and is lauded as one of the most important novels of the twentieth century.

Don't miss the film adaptation, "Carol," a stirring and intimate portrait of romantic obsession from queer filmmaker Todd Haynes. Cate Blanchett draws the viewer in with her dreamy performance as Carol, while Rooney Mara's Therese is naive and eager.

"The Color Purple"

Alice Walker's triumphant masterpiece tells the story of Celie, an African American woman growing up in rural Georgia. We follow Celie's life story through the decades as she endures abuse from her family and an often brutal society. When her sister leaves for work as a missionary in Africa, Celie begins writing letters to God, capturing her excruciating and ultimately uplifting journey of self discovery. Along the journey, Celie meets a few strong women who challenge her notions of love and push her to greater levels of resilience and hope. The novel was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner.

Steven Spielberg crafted an Academy Award nominated film in 1985 that starred Oprah Winfrey and Whoopie Goldberg. The book was then adapted into a Tony award-winning Broadway musical. The film version of the musical, released last year, captured Celie's courageous journey told through song and dance.

"Brokeback Mountain"

If you haven't read the short story by Annie Proulx, you're missing out on the heartbreaking story of two cowboys and the love they shared that spans a lifetime. Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist are salt-of-the-earth field hands who meet on a gig herding sheep in the Wyoming mountains. A drunken encounter one night reveals an undeniable truth that sets the stage for a life of hidden love. The boys go their separate ways, fearful of living their truth, but are restrained to reunite to the place where they are free to express their love. Time takes its toll, and the cowboys become men – broken and worn from a lost love that only Brokeback Mountain knows. Proulx's language is sparse and naked, as inarticulate as the characters who can barely muster the words to express the rich inner feelings that stir, awaken and eventually devastate their lives.

The film adaptation by director Ang Lee stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film was famously snubbed at the 2006 Oscars for Best Picture, but it remains a groundbreaking piece of queer filmmaking. The lush photography, sumptuous score, and emotionally stirring performances accentuates one of the finest films in cinema history, a testament to the truth that "love is a force of nature."

"Blue is the Warmest Color"

The heartfelt and tender story, beautifully rendered as a graphic novel, finds Clementine on the verge of becoming a woman. She meets Emma, a confident blue-haired lesbian who whisks Clementine away on a bristling love story, capturing the elusive magic of first love and awakening the young lovers to the richness of desire and longing. But, of course, the other side of first love is heartbreak, an aching truth that tears at their hearts.

The graphic novel was adapted into a film version in 2013 from director Abdellatif Kechiche, starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. The triumphant and sumptuous film stirred controversy with its graphic portrayal of lesbian sex and intimacy, but its place in the canon of LGBTQ+ films remains undeniable.

"Call Me By Your Name"

André Aciman's story captures a time and place so tantalizing and erotic it sizzles in the reader's mind. In the 1980s Italian Riviera, Elio, a precocious young man, meets his father's research assistant, Oliver, an American who teases with brilliant sophistication. The restless summer days blur into lingering hot nights where the two can no longer resist their budding affections. For Elio, it's wild, confusing, electric first love, but Oliver, seasoned with life's lessons, must return home after the kind of summer that will thrust Elio into the undeniable pangs of adulthood. The book, rich with lyrical language and relatable characters, is a heart-rending elegy to the passion of first love.

Timothée Chalamet's star-making turn as young Elio is the beating heart of Luca Guadagnino's honest and faithful film adaptation, which is worthy of multiple viewings. Watch it first for the passionate performances and again and again for the breathless longing it taps into that everyone experiences once in life: The feeling of falling in love for the first time.

"Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda"

Simon Spier, a closeted teen, gets wrapped up in all the angst of teenhood drama when his closely-guarded secret nearly gets exposed. He's been pen palling with Blue, a boy whose identity remains hidden behind email as their flirtation escalates. But when one of these salacious emails falls into the wrong hands, Simon is blackmailed and struggles to conceal his true identity. The experience sends young Simon on a coming-of-age adventure (disaster?) in this funny, heartfelt, and uplifting young adult novel. The book is lauded as a voice of a generation, lovingly showing teens who might be struggling with their sexuality that there is hope and humor waiting outside the closet.

The book was handsomely adapted into 2018's "Love, Simon," one of the first mainstream teen romantic comedies to headline a boy's coming out story. The quirky movie is charming and cute – a perfect date movie for young boys and girls whose budding same-sex feelings are beautiful and worthy just the same.

Reading is the Gift That Keeps on Giving

Books and short stories ignite our imagination through the words that build characters and worlds in our minds. These stories enrich our lives with empathy and compassion, love and heartbreak – the way novels can only do. Our minds are ultimately nourished with stories that reflect back pieces of our identities through character journeys these books and short stories tell.

Sponsored by McDonald's

by Roger Porter

This story is part of our special report: "McDonald's Unity in Diversity and Mentally Strong Editorial Series". Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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